Andrew and Ace

WackLUG founder and long time crony Andrew Lee recently posted the 52’nd episode of his famously unedited, unscripted video blog and you should give it a look if you have the time because I think it’s one of the best entries that doesn’t feature me.  Old school AFOL Ace Kim of FBTB fame, is the latest victim on Brick’s & Beer rotisserie-spit and he’s got a very interesting story to tell that many older AFOL’s can relate to.   Topics include the pros and cons of collecting…Is there ever a time to downsize?…and how to deal with a bloated collection that no longer makes sense.  It’s more focused than Andrew’s typical offerings and the two have a great on-screen rapport, so check it out if you’re a fan of the program or new to it.   There is also a bit concerning one of my favorite builders of all time, Jon Palmer, and the resurfacing of one of his classic creations. Andrew does look oddly bloated, especially in the face. Feel free to speculate on the reason for that in the comments.

Bricks LA Update (Part 1)

It’s been two weeks and a day since I committed to attending Bricks LA, and as I mentioned in this self congratulatory post, I’ve begun work on a diorama to share with my fellow attendees and the great unwashed masses who will pack the Pasadena Convention center in desperate search of a Lego fix.  I can hear the familiar questions now…is this Star Wars?  Is this Halo?  How long did it take?, How many bricks?, Do you live in your parent’s basement?,  are you sure this isn’t Star Wars?  As I mentioned in the first article, I’m planning on taking advantage of my SHIPtember offering from earlier this year, the BSL Marcus Garvey and use it as the centerpiece of the diorama.  I don’t typically keep models assembled for any length of time and one of the downsides of that policy is that I don’t have a catalogue of creations to draw from in an “emergency”.  I have managed to amass a decent sized collection of models by a rogues gallery of fellow builders, but I’m hesitant to use them for several reasons.  The most obvious one is that with very few exceptions the models in question have been previously posted and unlike Rutherford I don’t really dig trotting out a reliquary of greatest hits.   And of course, most of them don’t really fit the vibe of this current project. The Garvey is only a couple of months old and it’s never traveled to a convention so I figured it’s fair game.

Because experience has taught me that people are not really into my smaller builds (for better or worse they expect me to show up with the big action), I’m planning on a 4’x8′ layout that encompasses the entirety of my Legoratory table.  It’s the same footprint as Bucharest, Logan’s Run and Zero Hour but this new effort will certainly lack the vertical impact of those dioramas.   When your starting point is a 132 long ship, you need a large background to give it any sense of scale and perspective.

As of the time of this posting, I have a barely adequate 37 days and 35 minutes remaining to accomplish this task and for that…I must unfortunately embrace the boilerplate wholeheartedly.  That means there is no time for fussing about trying to come up with a new fancy technique or waiting patiently for artistic inspiration to strike…like lightning!  There is no time to conjure the muse, she’s a capricious wench at the best of times.  No, building under the guillotine of a hard deadline means reaching into the back-catalog of ideas and hopefully rearranging them into something that at least vaguely resembles a new build.  If something truly creative or original happens along the way, so much the better but the fundamental approach is different without the luxury of unlimited time.

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When building a diorama for a SHIP, you basically have two options for the setting, rural or urban.  Sure you can mix the two but in my experience one style is usually dominant.  I’m kind of burned out on the classic futuristic hangar approach or some kind of techno-ziggurat so I opted for a more natural setting.  I’ve amassed a decent quantity of dark blue tile over the past few years and I was itching to put them into use.  It made sense to start from the lowest point and build my way up (unlike my usual random approach to building things) so I tried to work in a subtle curve into the flow and break things up with little islands of mud.  Normally I’d at least try to break the grid and float some terrain at odd angles but in this particular instance, the baseplate is my friend. Things can get alarmingly jostled during interstate travel and I want to give the layout the best possible chance of survival on it’s way to the venue.

I wish I had enough dark brown to line the lower banks with, but looking at what I have on hand, a combination of old/new brown was the most logical choice.  I’m not ruling out a Cracklink order but I’d like to avoid it if I can, to save money for other things like SWAG and on-site refreshments.  After the mud went down, it was time to get a little elevation into the mix, so I began work on a rocky terrace.  I’m not a huge fan of your standard issue rock-vomit that features slopes going every which direction so I opted for this simpler one-direction technique I’ve used a couple of times in the past to good effect.  it’s not very inventive and certainly not state o’ the art, but I enjoy the look and it has the benefit of allowing me to gain elevation quickly.  As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be happy just to cover the entire footprint and I’m not terribly worried about the vertical aspect of the diorama.  In a normal situation, planning for an eye-block would be of primary importance in these early stages, but I’m just going to let it emerge on it’s own as the project advances.  I did begin an olive green retaining wall in the background, with small gaps between the slats, but I’m not convinced yet that it will still be around by the time the building is complete.  I might take advantage of the gaps by putting some indirect lighting behind the wall, but it’s just a vague notion for now.

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There has been one alarming development, in laying all that brown plate for the terraforming, I was amazed at how many 1×2 plates snapped like the bones of a brittle old man with osteoporosis.  The photo below is just a small sample of the carnage, I’d conservatively estimate that I lost 25-30 of these basic parts over the course of decidedly routine usage.  They were all of the newer reddish brown variety, I don’t think I lost a single example of the older color.  It’s disappointing, not because of the cost (they go for about 2 cents a pop), but rather because I expect a higher quality standard from our benevolent Danish overlords.

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The biggest challenge I face with this project is a familiar one for me; the lack of an overriding creative vision to guide me.  Simply put, I have no freaking idea what this thing will, or should look like when all is said and done.  I know I want to use the bulk of the SHIP to divide the scene into two separate areas, each with it’s own character.  I know I want a largely rural setting, and some lights and motion…but what the final form will look like is a largely a mystery and so is the story that will go along with it.  Instead of planning like a normal person, I started laying brick without a guiding blueprint.  This isn’t unusual for me, I typically start blazing away in the heat of inspiration and worry about the details later, safe in the knowledge that I have the luxury of time for a re-start or two along the way to get things right.  I have no such luxury for Bricks LA, the reset button is broken and I have to push past indecision and uncertainty to make the deadline.

When I started building I didn’t envision this project as a collaboration, it seemed rude to ask people to spend time and effort building something in a creative vacuum, without a clear picture of the target to inform their work.  Building for a convention is a unique monster though and it has been my experience that involving cronies in the mix is essential to the collective onsite experience.  Things are always better with like minded idiots.  With that in mind, I’ve asked friends of the blog and WackLUG members Jeff Cross and Andrew Lee to come along for the ride if this WIP shot looks at all compelling to them. I’m also hoping Zach Clapsaddle will defy the odds and show up, bringing along  his special brand of magic, but that seems to be up in the air for now.  As for rowntRee, he’s (of course) invited to participate but he’s got his own kettle o’ fish to deal with, working on a racing pit for his engorged Victor Viper.  I hope it all fits in the van, buddy.

If, by chance, you find yourself planning on attending Bricks LA, let me know and I’m sure I can find some pace on this bloated layout for your contribution as well.   I’ll update you on the progress in the coming weeks.  Any advice or constructive criticism you have is welcome in the comments, but if your words of wisdom require a massive revision or restart, don’t expect to see them implemented.

 

Remembering the King of all Swoosh Videos

The swooshing of Lego spaceships is a time honored tradition that has it’s roots (for most people) in the carefree days of childhood when nothing was better than running around like a sugared-up jackass with your favorite space fighter making engine and laser gun noises.  As teens and adults, most people limit their swooshing to hastily taken still photos where the greatest variable seems to be facial contortions and wardrobe.  Indeed, some artistic souls, like Graybandit2000 have mastered the art form to the point where it seems little innovation is possible or even necessary.  I’m not a swooshing man myself (I have a face made for radio), but I can appreciate a good swoosh when I see one.

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I’m not sure who was the first builder to apply the concept to video, but maybe one of you will educate me in the comments.  Swoosh videos became an all too brief fad a few years ago and most example seemed to be directly associated with the oft discussed SHIPtember.  Indeed, the practice became so popular that even the tribe of notoriously humorless train-guys tried to get in on the action, but as usual, they didn’t quite…get it.

By and large, swoosh videos are pretty uninspired, shaky-cam affairs that are sort of instantly forgettable.  This is sad when you take into account all the comedic and auditory advantages video has to offer.  I think the collected works of Monty Python alone would provide nearly endless inspiration to would-be directors, but most people refuse to apply the same creativity to the videos as they do to their Lego models.  Even when the creators get the music right, the results are frequently out of frame, out of focus and ultimately out of bounds.  One enterprising builder had the foresight to bring a trampoline into the mix and yet the final product still managed to disappoint.  I don’t think you can really maximize the value of a trampoline without the entire affair ending in injury or some form of disaster. Most of the videos seem to feature teenagers literally running around in bucolic settings, with a death-grip on their precious SHIPs.

For my money, the greatest swoosh video to date, is 2013’s simply titled SWOOSH, by Jacob Unterreiner.  Jacob seems to have dropped off the map in the last year or so, which is a shame because he was really hitting his stride as a builder.  Even though I’m pretty sure he and I shared some unkind words at some point (no doubt my fault), I always enjoyed his work immensely.  The model he’s clutching, PHOENIX, is worth a look too, it’s pretty rad and has some great color blocking. While we wait for Jacob’s triumphant return to the scene, let’s enjoy the king of all swooshing videos and pause to consider this underrated and underdeveloped sub-genre of the hobby.

Feel free to include your favorite swooshing still shots or videos in the comments.

 

 

Blog or Die! The Manifesto’s First Contest

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Tell Your Story” image courtesy of Chris Maddison

Constant reader, the time has come for the Manifesto’s first ever writing contest.  So if you’ve been too shy, too busy or too lazy to join in on the action, now is the time to live your blogging dreams on this… the smallest and shabbiest stage in all AFOLdom.  Yes, this is your chance to join the vaunted brotherhood of Liu, Hoffmann, Andes, Rutherford, rountRee, Prasad and Oohlu.  Tell your story…blog or die!

Continue reading “Blog or Die! The Manifesto’s First Contest”

Friday Night Fights [Round 26]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for a very special Thanksgiving Day, pants-ripping edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of Black Friday, with door buster specials and access to leftover turkey sandwiches on the line.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from the high atop the walls of Jericho, it’s “The Gentleman” General JJ and his “Outbreak Chapter 16: Splitting Up”.

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from inside the Atomium, it’s Gregory “The Belgian Bruiser” Coquelz and his “Brick Friday”.

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As usual, constant reader, you are tasked with deciding the outcome of this pugilistic endeavor and determine who will receive a week’s worth of bragging rights.  Simply leave a comment below and vote for the model that best suits your individual taste. I will tally up the votes next Friday and declare a winner.

Last time, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the battle of the Victor Vipers, with control of the snake-pit and NoVVember bragging rights on the line.  In the end, Don “The DragonWilson and his “Devil’s Advocate“. edged out Andreas “Lionheart” Lenander and his “Dragonfly“. by a slim margin of 7-5.  Don Wilson scores his first victory (1-0) while Andreas Lenander runs his record to (0-1).

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I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving, the Manifesto is certainly thankful for all of you constant readers, including those outside of North America where the holiday is celebrated.

 

And the Winner of SHIPtember 2017 is…

Brama!, by Mr. Zac Lowing, who also took the top spot in 2016.  The rest of you losers can go home now, try harder next year!

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I would love to tell you who won the SHIPtember People’s Choice award for this year but as usual, Simon Liu has wandered off to the next shiny thing and probably won’t think about it until just before next year’s contest.  I thought about tallying up the votes myself but that sounded too much like work and it’s a useless exercise because Zac was clearly going to win the challenge anyway. Sure the BASILISK seemed to be leading the way and it was an exciting and worthy SHIP…but we’ll never know because Simon is awesome at starting things but not so awesome at finishing them.  Maybe he’s busy with the Canadian branch of C4C, that would be a pretty good excuse.  I’m probably in the tiny minority of people who are bothered by his inability to close out the proceedings, but I’m old and cranky so why are you still standing on my lawn?

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For you SHIPtember enthusiasts it is worth noting that creator of the BASILISK and  friend of the blog Pico van Grootveld completed the official poster of last year’s offerings.

So a heartfelt congratulations from the Manifesto to Zac Lowing and all praise to Brama.

Friday Night Fights [Round 25]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another ACL tearing edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of the Vipers with control of the snake-pit and  NoVVember bragging rights on the line.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from beyond the lighted stage, it’s Don “The DragonWilson and his “Devil’s Advocate“.

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm Sweden, it’s Andreas “Lionheart” Lenander and his “Dragonfly“.

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As usual, constant reader, you are tasked with deciding the outcome of this pugilistic endeavor and determine who will receive a week’s worth of bragging rights.  Simply leave a comment below and vote for the model that best suits your individual taste. I will tally up the votes next Friday and declare a winner.

Last time, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the battle of the wild blue yonder, with global air supremacy on the line.  In the end, Justin “Henry” Vaughn and his “Crater Express Moonbase Taxi” body slammed Derek “The Action Figure” Schin and his “Aero Pirates“ en route to a bruising 8-5 victory.  Justin Vaughn scores his first victory (1-0) while Derek Schin runs his record to (0-1).

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